Hearts, Upward! Lifting up Every Moment as a Eucharistic Offering
Oct 18, 2022
Siobhan & Apolonio Latar
The below reflection first appeared in St. Bernard's Magazine for the fall 2022 issue. If you'd like to receive a copy of the St. Bernard's Magazine in the mail, you can submit your mailing address here.
What do we encounter in the Eucharist, this grain in the infinite universe? What we see seems to be nothing, a simple piece of unleavened bread. Yet, there, in this “nothingness,” is everything. There, in what appears to be banal, is the meaning, depth, and sweetness of life. When we look at the Eucharist, we see that this “nothingness” reveals the beginning of creation: when there was nothing, there was love (Jn. 1:1). There was never a time when there wasn’t this glorious love, this ever-melting affection of the Father for the Son in the Holy Spirit; and from this tender meaningful love, the world came into existence.
This apparent “nothingness” reveals to us that there can never be any circumstance or gesture, however banal, that lacks some meaning. Everything, whether it be cleaning one’s room or washing dishes, or when life seems to be drowned in nothingness, is filled with a wealth of meaning. Everything can become an occasion to see what is truly beautiful, to acknowledge that Christ is the meaning of everything: everything can become a Eucharistic offering. A moment that radiantly expresses this is the unexpected privilege of accompanying someone on their deathbed. It is a sacred moment in hiding, as it were: under the appearance of banal, bodily suffering; not immediately apparent. It is excruciating to be helpless, to not even know what the person needs; for him to be unable to say how he feels or whether he is thirsty or hot or cold; it is a return to the helplessness of the beginning of our lives: a helplessness just as tangible to the care-giver as the patient, when the witness can only keep vigil, and be present with him.
Remembering such a vigil, of his struggle just to fill his lungs after long years of robust life and service and availability to all and everyone, and the apparent emptiness of such a time, a new layer of meaning to the word “eucharist,” is brought to light. For “Eucharist” means “thanksgiving.” And what is thanksgiving? We are tempted to think of it as simply a word you say to someone in response to something given to you: an expected response to the action or gift of another. But if all of life is a gift, if everything we have is given to us, then the proper form or structure of everything we do ought to be a thanksgiving offering. The priest who anoints the dying man recalls to him that as a husband and father, he has lived out the task of caring for and providing for his family. Now, he has one last task: to offer his last battle, his suffering and pain, for his family. And he embraces and lives this final outpouring of the gift of his life back to the Father. The work of those last hours becomes a testimony of gratitude for all he has been given in life. He gave his whole life and love, his work, breath, and time, for the sake of his children: even his pain when it was all he had left to give. On the outside, to a common bystander, it looked like nothing, a useless, empty suffering , at a pitiful end. But with Eucharistic eyes, one can see that the weight of infinity is in those last sacred moments, so much so that in singing, “ Lord, remember me, when you come into your kingdom,” one can be palpably aware that the Lord one is appealing to is not somewhere far off in an abstract kingdom, but within this suffering, Eucharistic flesh of this man’s body, being transformed in its offering.
In front of the Eucharist, we enter into the prayer of Christ himself who said, “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” What we see when we look at the Eucharist is the glory of the Father’s love. There, where Christ is hidden in his divinity and humanity, is the eloquent silence that is full of mercy, disrupting our distractions, manipulations, and our self-centeredness. God chooses this “nothingness,” this piece of bread, to manifest His profound love for all of creation. It seems that He prefers what is fragile, what is simple, to reveal His glory. It is the subtlety of His descent into the world, of uniting all of the cosmos to Himself. God works in discreet ways, not because He wants to deceive us, but because He is humble. What this requires from us is an intelligent silence, which is the language of intimacy. The most intimate things are not the most immediate. Intimacy is a patient longing, a continuous affirmation of and being at joyful rest in the depth of the other. The language of silence, therefore, is the love of time, the patient ordering of our minds to what is essential and eternal. In front of the Eucharist, we learn not to despair because we find a place for our weaknesses and sinfulness. Before the humble love of Christ, we can place all of the burdens we carry. There, before the hidden Christ, is the patience of the Father who bears the whole world in the Holy Spirit with the Son.
Why is Christ hidden both in his divinity and humanity in the Eucharist? In this hiddenness, we are educated in the virginal love of Christ. Love requires a certain distance in order to recognize and affirm the depth of the whole of the other. The distance in the Eucharist (the hiddenness of his divinity and humanity) reveals that our plans or projections cannot measure love. At the same time, it is only because Christ is substantially present in the species of bread and wine that we can touch him, receive him, and be one spirit with him. What we learn from contemplating the Eucharist is to have the childlike posture of accepting love, of embracing the way God comes to us without preconceptions. We learn, not simply to receive love, but to desire to receive love. And to desire to receive love means recognizing that what we receive is always greater than what we can do. In this year in which we are invited to deepen our awareness and appreciation of the gift of the Eucharist, we will all have the opportunity to rediscover the Eucharistic nature of our own life and the ways in which we are called to participate in all the possible Eucharistic offerings of ourselves, in the hidden, simple, ordinary, every day invitations to embrace and imitate this Eucharistic form of Christ’s love.